“Duckburg? I thought it was Mickey’s Birthdayland!”
That was a comment I heard more than once when I visited the Magic Kingdom back in 1988 and 1989. As the Mickey’s Birthdayland Express rolled into a newly built train station just beyond Tomorrowland, guests first caught sight of this interesting billboard:
“Duckburg? Mickey’s a mouse! Shouldn’t this be Mouse Town? Mouseville? Mouseburg?”
Even the most out-of-touch tourist in 1988 surmised that Duckburg was clearly the home of Donald Duck. And they were right. Duckburg had sprang from the imagination of comic book writer/artist extraordinaire Carl Barks, over forty years beforeEven the most out-of-touch tourist in 1988 could surmise that Duckburg was clearly the home of Imagineers hastily built Mickey’s Birthdayland to celebrate the mouse’s 60th birthday. In the comics, Duckburg was the home of Scrooge McDuck, Huey, Dewey and Louie, Daisy Duck, Gyro Gearloose and numerous other colorful characters. Except Mickey Mouse. In fact, according to the mouse’s most famous comic book adventure, “Mickey Mouse Outwits the Phantom Blot”, Mickey resides in the town of Mouseville. It’s no wonder poor Donald resorted to vandalism when he first beheld that sign honoring Duckburg’s “most famous citizen.”
It’s likely that Donald fell victim to yet another instance of the famous Disney “synergy.”It seems that the town of Duckburg had just made a comeback the prior year. In September of 1987, Disney premiered a new syndicated daily cartoon show called DuckTales, which took its inspiration from the Carl Barks canon of comic book stories from 1940s and 1950s. While Imagineers certainly could have chosen Toontown from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which had also debuted in 1987, Duckburg was a more G-rated, bright and happy place, compared to Roger’s somewhat dark and definitely PG hometown.
And the Duckburg of the Magic Kingdom was a colorful place indeed. From the kid-size faux storefronts----to Mickey’s stylized cartoon convertible.
Imagineers clearly paid homage to Barks and his creations. They honored the city’s wealthiest resident----and even included a dedication to Duckburg’s founder Cornelius Coot, whom Barks referenced once in the 1952 story “Statuesque Spendthrifts.” The story revolved around a statue of Coot that Imagineers very faithfully recreated.
Coot’s statue was pretty much the only Duckburg element that remained when the area evolved into Mickey’s Toontown Fair in 1996. In fact, Imagineers rewrote history a little. According to The Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Coot is now the founder of Toontown.
Street signs paid homage to both Barks and original Donald Duck voice Clarence “Ducky” Nash. Other street names included Tailfeather Trail, Quackfaster Circle, and Cornhusker Lane.
Beyond its odd identity crisis, Mickey’s Birthdayland featured a number of low-tech but very kid-friendly attractions. A quick tour of Mickey’s house ultimately deposited guests inside the Birthday Party Tent. There they participated in the Minnie’s Surprise Party show. Featured next door at Mickey’s Hollywood Theater was a meet-n-greet with the main mouse himself in his personal dressing room. Across the street was Grandma Duck’s Farm, Mickey’s Playground, and the Mousekemaze.